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More choppers for Indian defence forces

A file photo of Dhruv helicopter.

NEW DELHI (BNS): Seeking to sharpen their modern warfare skills, the three wings of Indian defence forces – Army, Navy and Air Force – have projected a requirement of around 800 military helicopters worth over 20,000 crore in the coming years.

These would include Ka-31 early-warning and multi-role helicopters for Navy, light utility helicopters for Army, Mi-17 V-5 helicopters for the IAF among others.

The Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday has cleared a 950-crore deal to acquire five Russian-built Kamov-31 early-warning helicopters for the Navy, according to a report in The Times of India.

The Ka-31s, fitted with E-801M Oko (Eye) airborne electronic warfare radar, will bolster Navy's long-range capability to detect airborne and surface ship threats. The chopper can track up to 40 airborne and surface threats, with 360-degree coverage, from 100 to 200 km away depending on target's size, the report said, adding the Navy, at present, has nine Ka-31 helicopters in its arsenal.

Meanwhile, tender has also been floated for acquiring 16 multi-role helicopters (MRHs), armed with cruise missiles and lightweight torpedoes. The Navy, however, wants around 60 MRHs eventually to boost its anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

The Army and IAF are looking forward to induct 259 and 125 Light Utility Helicopters respectively to replace the ageing Chetak and Cheetah fleet. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has undertaken the task of manufacturing 187 such choppers by 2016-2017, the report said.

HAL is also manufacturing ‘Dhruv' Advanced Light Helicopters, with 168 of them to be inducted into Army and IAF by 2013-2014. It is also developing the 5.5-tonne twin-engine Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). IAF has projected an initial requirement for 65 LCHs armed with a 20mm turret twin-barrel gun, cluster bombs, rocket pods as well as missiles.

The IAF has also re-launched its quest for 22 lethal attack helicopters to add to its feet of Mi-35 gunships. Besides, it will induct 80 Russian Mi-17 V-5 helicopters during 2010-2014 under a $1.2 billion deal inked in December 2008. Weaponised for combat operations, the Mi-17s will ferry troops and supplies to high-altitude areas.

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